Savannah attorney Sage Brown filed a lawsuit Monday in Bryan County Superior Court on behalf of six North Bryan residents involved in an April 14 incident with authorities on Beulah Church Road near Pembroke.
Brown spoke about the action at St. John AME church in Pembroke Monday night during an NAACP meeting.
Filed against Bryan County Sheriff Clyde Smith and recently appointed Pembroke Police Chief Mark Crowe, the lawsuit said plaintiffs Tommy Lee Williams, Henrietta Williams, Laquana Benjiman, Brian Williams, Dewayne Williams and Latreka Edwards are seeking damages.
The lawsuit also asks that all deputies and officers involved in the incident be removed from patrol of the area until a court hearing could be held. Brown said if what happened did happen as witnesses claim, "the people who did it should be punished."The suit claims Crowe "was not wearing a badge," was "very rude and unprofessional," used "racial slurs," and that he "attacked" Tommy Lee Williams "from behind" while Williams "was on his private property."
A Bryan County Sheriff’s Department incident report tells another story. It claims Williams began swearing and coming toward Crowe’s vehicle after Crowe mistook Williams for someone he thought he knew. The report said Williams left his property, went into the road and continued to cuss and approach Crowe’s SUV.
The BCSD report also stated that, despite warnings about being taken to jail, Williams continued cussing and approaching Crowe, who got out of his SUV, put his badge around his neck and approached Williams to arrest him.
Williams then allegedly "swung a closed fist," hitting Crowe in the jaw, the report said.
The lawsuit filed by Brown said the plaintiffs believe the defendants will try to cover up their crimes and that, "plaintiffs are fearful for their immediate safety and well-being if the defendants are allowed to continue to patrol this area."
Also filed Monday was a demand for a speedy trial and a change of venue request that the case be moved out of Bryan County, according to Brown.
"I think Bryan County will agree someone outside of Bryan County needs to look at it," Brown said, "someone with no axe to grind and no ties."
"I don’t think a fair shake is being given in the situation," he said. "Reports and warrants are not fact, it’s only one side of what happened. I look forward to a thorough and sifting evaluation of what took place."
According to Bryan County NAACP leader Dave Williams, the Statesboro branch of the organization is discussing ways to help.
"We are there to support them and to make sure they get a fair hearing and are treated fairly," Williams said. "We want everyone to know both sides of the story."
Crowe said he’s been advised by county attorneys to not talk about the incident, but said "the truth will come out in court."
Sheriff Clyde Smith could not be reached for comment.